Archive for November, 2012

Many of us desire and strive to be more godly. We want to be more loving, and to experience his power and love. Many of us work hard at it, going to church, doing Bible studies, and trying to live our lives by biblical principles. So, how is it working for you?

How you answer this question depends a lot on how much you are aware of the spiritual condition of your heart. I know for me that for years I assumed that if I did the right things, I would grow automatically. I thought focusing on having quiet times, memorizing Scriptures, and making applications would do the trick and I would grow. The truth is, I did to some extent!

However, to a large extent I did not. Deep issues within me were not getting transformed. One of these issues was depending too much on impressing some people to regard myself as acceptable. Another was not feeling important unless I was achieving up to my standards. I finally became aware that this was ungodly and I needed to be changed.

Once we become aware of the deeper level of ungodliness in us, we are tempted to try harder. Another strategy is to repress it and forget about it. A much better strategy is to allow God to make us aware of our ungodliness, face it, and be transformed by his Spirit. We then grow in ways we never thought possible.

You must not be deceived into thinking that you grow yourself spiritually. You do not. Your job is to cooperate with God.

The Holy Spirit is who grows you. He uses your Bible studies, quiet times and prayers, but by yourself you cannot grow yourself an inch. You need to realize that God wants to grow you in your attitudes, motives, and in what you rely on. Your behavior will take care of itself if your heart is right.

So, my brothers and sisters, I leave you with a challenge. Ask God to show you right now a barrier in your heart that is hindering the Spirit from transforming you. Wait a minute or two and see what he brings to mind. What did he say?

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I believe that most of us we would like to think that all it takes to be fixed or to grow is to hear a good sermon or read a good book. We do not like the idea that we may also need to be trained. Training sounds like a lot of work.

Yet, the Bible says that we need to be trained for the sake of godliness (I Timothy 4:7). Why is training necessary? One big reason is that we have already been trained in many ways to be ungodly. We need to be retrained to let God into our hearts to transform us.

Often our childhood homes, schools, religion, and society have trained us to live life without God. As a result, we often try to be good in our own strength. However, this training will not lead to godliness.

We often stop at knowing the truth because we think that once we know the rules, we can do them. However, if we are honest, we know we cannot do them. If we are dishonest, we often reduce godliness down to outward behavior and ignore the messy world of the heart.

We need to be retrained to face painful truths about our sins and weaknesses deep within, and not try to repress them. We need to be retrained in how to experience God’s love and acceptance of us despite his awareness of our sins and flaws. He requires our cooperation for these to happen.

One of the big ways we can be trained and retrained to be godly is to practice spiritual disciplines. I know this can sound cold and hard to some. Yet, disciplines are not ends in themselves, but means for us to experience God’s love and grace. They are the means for us living the truths of the Bible and not just knowing them.

We have a lot of bad habits that God would like to purge out of us. We also have many false ideas about life and ourselves. He wants to give us the power to cast out this darkness within us and to live in the light of the wonderful person he has made each of us to be (Ephesians 4:22-24). Ask him to show you what this darkness is in you and for the power to put it off and to put on his truth. This will never happen by superficial knowing, but only by learning to rely on his truths for life and ministry.

Training can help you to rely on his truths and not stop at just knowing truths through a sermon or a good book. Quiet times, meditation on the Word, praying the Scriptures, Scripture memory, and silence are some of the key disciplines that God is using in my life these days to transform me. Commit yourself to be trained as well. Ask God what unique set of disciplines he wants you to practice to cooperate with him. Commit yourself to live in the reality that God always loves, values and accepts you, no matter what happens. Commit yourself to be trained!

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God’s Spirit does more than just help us understand the Bible, comfort us, and convict us of sin. He also gives us the power to live the Christian life. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

I used to rely a lot more on myself to live the Christian life and to grow spiritually. If I was self-centered or unloving toward someone, I would either repress the sin, memorize Scripture, read a book on the subject, or just try harder. Now, I am more inclined to give up the autonomy and give it to the Holy Spirit to transform this self-centeredness or lack of love into Christ-like attitudes and behaviors.

We are often fooled into thinking that all we need to do to live the Christian life is to know the biblical principles, and then we do them in our own fortitude. We think we can largely grow and do ministry by our own strength and willpower. However, the resistance to progress in the Christian life is supernatural. We face “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The world, the flesh, and the devil are too much for mere human resources. We need the Spirit’s power to overcome our bondages to arrogance, self-centeredness, and complacency. We need the Spirit’s power to know and do the works of God.

We also need to learn what hinders the work of the Spirit in our hearts. One of the biggest hindrances is knowing the truth without relying on the truth. Relying on our fortitude instead of the Holy Spirit for our life and ministry grieves the Holy Spirit. One of the truths that we need to be relying on is depending on the Spirit to be putting off the old sinful thinking and feelings, and putting on Christ-like thinking and feelings.

For me, I assume I am walking in the Spirit, unless I sense that the Holy Spirit is convicting me of something specifically. A vague sense of guilt does not work with me, for this tends to be a common ploy of Satan. Also, when I feel anxiety, I try to turn to God in prayer, for this often means that fellowship has been broken with him. Anxiety often is a call from God to connect with him in prayer.

May we all move beyond being satisfied with just knowing about God’s power. May we also have the courage and humility to live in God’s power. He commands us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). May we ask God to make this true for us today!

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